Kinetic Weapons balance testing


I thought I’d do a little testing to see how the kinetic weapons stacked up against their beam/laser equivalents.

First up, the Autocannon versus the Cruiser Defence Laser. Both appear to be intended as anti-fighter weapons, with 3.7 tracking. On paper, the Autocannon appears to be better in every way, with what looked like a higher dps, better penetration, more hp, less weight. The payoff appeared to be a marginally higher cost in points, crew and power requirements.

I tried them out a few times versus speed 2.35 tribe fighters. Four cruisers with 5 weapons, 2 tractor beams, versus 4 squadrons. The autocannon performed comparitively poorly, losing 2 cruisers to kill off the opposing fighters, where the defence laser armed cruisers only losing one.

I repeated this test versus speed 2.68 rebel fighters. The autocannon cruisers lost one, the defence laser cruisers lost none. Looks like I need to do some fighter comparisons later, those tribe fighters might take the crown with their doubled HP, even if they are a bit slow. EDIT: Did the testing… Rebel speed (2.68 vs 2.35) trumps Tribe doubled HP in a straight laser dogfight, regardless of whether carriers are available.

I then tested the raw dps of the two weapons, by facing them off against each other - tribe cruisers with 7 weapons and 4 tribe repair modules, no sheilds or armour, facing each other, one with lasers one with autocannons. Six one-on-one combats resulted in a convincing six nil victory for the cruiser defence laser. The described fire rate for the autocannon is clearly misleading, it’s probably the peak fire rate, not taking into account the short cooldown between salvos.

Conclusion: The fire rate of the autocannon is highly misleading, with the cruiser defence laser actually dealing more damage per second. The cruiser defence laser remains the best anti-fighter weapon that can be mounted on a cruiser. However, the better penetration (notably, the ability to defeat frigate shields and the minimal armour many people put on their cruisers) may make it a sound choice versus mixed frigate/fighter fleets.

Next: The Howitzer versus the Cruiser Laser. Both are apparently intended in a similar role - short ranged shield breaker. The howitzer is dramatically cheaper in cost, weight and power. It’s shield pen is 10 lower, but both are over 27, so they might as well be the same… The howitzer gets 1 more armour pen, 16 to 15. It has more accuracy 1.1 to 0.9 which is nice, but a bit shorter range and a bit higher minimum range. The howitzer has double the predicted DPS from the fire rate / damage statistics, but we already know from the last test that this is incorrect… So I faced them off against each other to see… The results were pretty disappointing. The Howitzer was thrashed by the cruiser laser.

I modified the cruiser laser ships to be the same overall points value (this required reducing them from 7, to 5, weapons modules) and tried again… This time the combat seemed a bit closer, but still an easy victory for the cruiser laser. When I made it 4 weapons to 7… Still a victory for the cruiser laser. 3 weapons to 7, finally the howitzer flipped the tables.

Conclusion: The fire rate of the Howitzer is very misleading. Rather than dealing more than double the damage per second of the cruiser laser, it was in fact dealing about half.

Overall conclusion: The kinetic weapons are currently dramatically inferior to their counterparts. Note that this doesn’t mean the Tribe is weak (so far I think it’s strong), it just means they’re going to perform better if you use the old weapons.

EDIT: one note about this… It’s a little unfair comparing a weapon to the cruiser laser, then declaring it to be an ineffective weapon - the cruiser laser is arguably the best weapon in the game right now. The Howitzer is, however, in the same role, so the two shouldn’t be too far off each other’s performance (I’d expect the howitzer to deal a little less damage, given it’s lower requirements and better tracking… but not the half that it is now… And it’d be really nice if the fire rate of salvo weapons was more accurately described. Perhaps the number given as fire rate should be the time between the start time of each salvo, and the damage number should have a multiplier marked to indicate it’s multiple shots. This would make it possible to compare the performance of salvo and regular fire weapons.)


Yeah, salvo weapons should display a “Reload” statistic saying how long it is between salvos.


After playing with it some more, I think the anti-fighter defense weapons for The Tribe need to be superior to that of the normal weapons – maybe far superior.

Their 50% armor leaves them wide open to low penetration high DPS weapons, especially laser fighter swarms. I found I still was forced to equip enough armor plates to get me over the damage resistance hump versus fighters, but since those plates only have half hit points, they’re really a waste of a slot against ship to ship weapons.

Maybe better anti-fighter weapons would help them with those fighter swarms. (What they really need is like a flak gun… something that does a small explosive radius of damage so that dense fighter swarms are quickly whittled down but finishing off the last couple dozen takes longer because you’re not longer catching 2-3 of them in every blast.)


Aye, if any faction is prime for flack weaponry, it’s the Tribe.


I was thinking about this and had an idea. Instead of making new race specific weapons, why not just make the weapons effectively the same (i.e. same stats) but with faction specific effects? For example make the Empire’s lasers red and the Rebel’s lasers green. Or, make the Tribes weapons appear as projectile cannons when they fit lasers. That way you would still have the distinctive visual effects without having to sacrifice performance. You could argue that the game shouldn’t have less guns but I think it would better to have a smaller set of distinct and balanced weapons rather than large set of somewhat redundant weapons. You could also simplify the weapon stats to make them more intuitive than they are now. Since dogthinker pointed out that many of the differences in penetration stats are trivial (though not all of them are i.e. proton laser), you could describe them as: short range, good vs shields, bad vs armor.


Could also make all weapons available to all teams but then make more specific bonuses…

Tribes would get bonuses to projectile weapons and repair modules, with penalties to shields and armor.
Empire would probably get bonuses to lasers and shields with a penalty to armor.

What’s the Alliance theme support to be, anyway? Maybe they could get a bonus to armor and missile tracking or something.

I do like some race specific items though. Bonuses would sort of do the same thing but I dunno, I like it when teams have something completely unique, even if it makes the game harder to balance.


From the textfiles, there’s a salvo interval and size:
Autocannon: 1200 salvo interval, 5 size; 3 damage per shot on 110 interval
Howitzer: 1200 salvo interval, 6 size; 6 damage per shot on 60 interval
Frigate cannon: 600 salvo interval, 3 size; 3 damage per shot on 80 interval

Here’s my best guess:
From slow motion observation of modules in game, it appears the weapons enter a long reload period after the last shot in salvo, assumedly this is the salvo interval. If that’s how this works, the autocannon has 4 shots followed by a 110 interval; the 5th shot is followed by a 1200 salvo interval. This gives a time of 1640 to complete a cycle. Of course, Cliffskinator could be deducting shot intervals from the reload period. :stuck_out_tongue:

Therefore my estimated maximum Damage per Time unit (ignoring tracking!) = damage*salvosize/(salvointerval+(salvosize-1)*shotinterval)

Autocannon: 0.0090
Howitzer: 0.0240
Frigate cannon: 0.0118

For reference: the mighty cruiser laser is 0.0465, a cruiser pulse laser 0.0200, quantum blaster 0.0133, cruiser defense laser 0.0127, ion cannon 0.0258. These are in line with dogthinker’s findings, with the real underperformer of the bunch looking to be the frigate kinetic weapon, although it is comparable to a phasorII(0.0152) that won’t get reflected by cruiser shields.
Cost/benefit/space analysis aside, the howitzer is somewhere between a pulse laser and a cruiser laser in dps potential and function, barring any benefit you may get from the burst nature of the thing. The autocannon looks a bit weak at first, but it has an alarming shield/hull penetration along the lines of a fighter rocket launcher. What you lose in AA ability you may very well gain in frigate (or armored fighters) killing power, although the poor range limits that idea somewhat.

The power/weight/price and tracking on a lot of these weapons are very favorable, and given that tribe doesn’t generally have to worry about armor ratios whatsoever… you may just be able to fit extra weapons to compensate. Personally, Tribe seem so strong to me I’m not even sure they should even have access to cruiser lasers, but that’s another thread. I almost sort of want these for my other races…


Dogthinker, were the hit points on the cruisers tested the same? Did you just do 6 tests? Did you look at what modules were destroyed, or how damaged, and how many hitpoints these modules have? Were the speed of the ships the same? Also, are you sure thats how the shield penetration mechanic works?

Tattoo, i really dont like that idea. It always a more interesting game when you have unsymettric gameplay. Think of something like starcrat. It allows for more depth, more tactics. Its more interesting.

Lastly, thanks yurch. Thats good info to have. Seems to corrilate with dogs data, which adds to its authenticity. Good stuff.


Cruiser Laser and Howitzer have the same HP per module. The builds were otherwise identical.

Yes. As were several before it, when it was getting beat still.

The ships were not moving for most of the combat. Speeds were almost identical.
Each battle contained 3 seperate 1v1 combats so I could see the consistency.
Yurch’s math backs up my empirical evidence pretty much perfectly too, which is nice :slight_smile:

99% sure. I’ve done pretty exhaustive tests, which suggested that supposing that surplus penetration had an effect on damage, then it was tiny enough I couldn’t detect it. My test is buried in another thread someplace, I tested repeatedly with banks of phase shields, compared to shield II. I stopped short of making custom shield and weapon modules with exaggerated stats, to verify if there was any effect at all, since I’d already satisfied that any effect was too small to care about. Feel free to try that for me :smiley:


Cruiser Laser v Howitzer is a lot more balanced if the rules are spend the same money and make ships more similar to what you might actually deploy (ie, these are close range ships and so should be fast!) In my test I had 8 cruisers per side, cost was just under 20K for each fleet. As a result, the laser based fleet had a lot of empty slots. The howitzer fleet had just two empty slots per ship (because I didn’t want to equip the tribe-repair modules and make the battle take forever). All ships had 3 cruiser III engines. For a while it’s neck and neck, but once the cruiser laser side gets an advantage the situation deteriorates rapidly for the howitzer side. Ultimately, the cruiser laser is not that much better than the howitzer, so if the CL gets a bit of a nerf things should be quite well balanced.

[edit] I have gotten very good results in real challenges with howitzer based fleets, those ships usually use 4 or 5 engines per ship though, so perhaps extra speed is of the essence [/edit]

It’s just too bad about the autocannon. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to use it. Perhaps if it worked like CIWS and could blast down enemy missiles with a raw wall of lead then it would be cool.


Going by the costs and other stats, the howitzer is roughly analogous to the quantum blaster, the autocannon to the cruiser defense laser, and the rapid fire cannon to the Phasor II. Each one of these has something about it that makes it slightly different than the original weapon, but those are the base weapons to have in mind for any comparisons.

Howitzer, being the most relevant for discussion, appears to be a really high damage quantum blaster, with virtually the exact same stats otherwise. If you’ve got spare crew and spare slots to fit multiple weapons, you could probably get a better power/damage ratio over cruiser lasers by using multiple howitzers.

Of course, most people using short ranged shieldbreakers as an assault weapon probably want as much damage packed into a small of a space as possible, defeating that benefit somewhat. I’d still recommend cruiser lasers for pure close assault roles.


Great research DT. I’m glad someone has the time to put some effort into these kind of things. Cheers!


Thing is, the CL, through it’s double DPS, essentially beats the Howitzer in every aspect, except HP per cost.

Remake your fleet, replacing every two howitzers with one CL. The result should be a cheaper, faster, fleet that deals the same DPS. Now push some of those cost savings through by either more CL or more engines… And you find you have a substantially better fleet. I can see no justification for ever using a howitzer, except the look and sound of it, since the CL dominates it at all tasks.

If your test battle was that close, I’m hazarding a guess that your ships were not completely identical except the weapons… As when I set CL against Howitzer on cost, it was a comfortable win for the CL.


They were, in fact, identical. I wanted to test the one thing I’ve learned about cruiser lasers, which is the DPS drops rapidly against moving targets. That small difference in tracking speed really does make a difference in cruiser vs. cruiser contests. If the need is maximum DPS on a single ship, the cruiser laser is clearly superior, no question. But if the goal is to field a fleet for X cost, the superiority is much less.

My main issue with the Cruiser Laser is that it’s just too good at stripping armor (by just hitting it so many times that sufficient crits are a near certainty) and that it costs too little given its amazing DPS against slow moving cruisers added to being the best shield dropping weapon in the game.

My secondary issue is that the best weapon in the game should have such non-Gratuitious graphics. I was hoping plasma would be the best weapon because I think it looks really cool.


Ahh, interesting. I didn’t think the accuracy difference would be that much versus cruisers. I think in my test the cruisers closed to range and stopped, so it was a raw test of max DPS, accuracy not important (big immobile targets.) I wonder how fast/small the ships have to be before the howitzer wins out on dps-vs-moving-target by cost.

Working on the assumption that crit damage is directly proportional to weapon damage, and that it’s going to take multiple hits to bring the armour down, then it shouldn’t matter much how fast the cruiser laser fires - just that it does big dps.

I always mix some beam lasers into my fast fleets, (actually into almost all fleets,) since I found heavily armoured fleets were pounding me otherwise.

Speak for yourself - cruiser laser is one of the coolest weapons to my view, I love watching the showers of ‘bullets’. It amuses me that the cruiser laser’s effect is how I think the kinetic weapons should look, while something like a laser shouldn’t be firing what looks like slow projectiles. Visually, the pulse laser looks more like what I expected the cruiser laser to look like.


By my earlier howitzer DPS estimate and an earlier post, my guess is .75 and higher on a 1 to 1 weapon ratio. Apparently the size is irrelevant since it will effect both equally. 2.0 tracking Ion beats cruiserlaser at .53. Really makes you reconsider those targeter modules.

Figuring out actual cost is a bit harder… because to do so accurately you should be factoring in powerplants and additional weight and all that other crap. The additional powerplant weight might actually become a drawback later if we ever get minimum range orders.

Armor sucks right now, but that’s from the cascading threshold drop more than anything related to crits. A pulse laser is all the penetration we need to bring down most fleets, any fleet with more armor than that risks being a borderline gimmick. On the other hand, 20 damage is a fair sized hit to average armor values, makes for a chunky crit…

The effect might need a shiny halo or spark or something to it. For the most powerful weapon in the game, it does look a bit unassuming to a newcomer.


The trick for me is to design a close assault cruiser without employing cruiser lasers. It seems like nothing else is even near the close-in effectiveness of the cruiser laser at this point. Throw in a couple of anti-armor beams for every 4 or 5 cruiser lasers, and that mix seems to eat opposing cruisers and frigates for breakfast.